With the New York Center for Independent Publishing still in a state of flux since its executive director Karin Taylor was let go in a cost-cutting move this winter, a controversy has flared over the lack of honorarium payments to speakers at April’s Round Table Writers’ Conference. In an e-mail sent Monday afternoon to the heads of the General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen, which operates NYCIP, Tim Brown, who chaired the Writers’ Conference said he was dismayed that two months after the close of the event the $50 due the approximately 80 speakers had not been paid. Brown contended that the General Society had promised to pay the fee in a “timely” fashion. Brown said the lack of payment threatened to alienate large portions of the writing and publishing community, something that GSMT and NYCIP can ill afford as the organizations try to find a way for the independent press organization to move forward.
Responding to Brown, Clive Beasley, executive director of GSMT, cited the organization’s weakened financial condition that has required “considerable stretching.” Beasley explained that GSMT’s endowment has gone down as costs rise and the organization spent money keeping different programs going, making it necessary to do things to “make short ends meet.” Beasley said he made it a priority to pay the conference’s costs and the keynote speaker (Wally Lamb), and added that, “we will find the funds to make these $50 payments as soon as possible. To all those who are distressed by lack of payment, I deeply and sincerely apologize.”
Brown noted that it is as much a matter of principle as the size of the payment. Invitations to speakers promised a modest honorarium, something Brown said that in his opinion “we’re obliged to pay promptly.” Brown noted that the conference met if not exceeded its expenses, and that the money to pay the honorarium should have been immediately available. The delay in payment could easily make members of the literary community think twice about working with NYCIP, Brown said.
There has been a leadership vacuum at NYCIP since Taylor’s departure, which was followed by the collapse of the executive committee whose members left in protest over Taylor’s dismissal. To try to give a boost to the NYCIP, interim director Leah Schnelbach has arranged for a meeting of the advisory council for Tuesday evening. At the meeting, a discussion of new directions that the CIP is exploring will be heard. Among items on the agenda are ways to make the advisory council more active and possibly expand the council to more members; opening up membership to writers and students; developing a five-year plan; and developing more educational programming.